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This report is taken from PN Review 248, Volume 45 Number 6, July - August 2019.

Elizabeth Daryush
‘small hot rolls in a napkin’
John Clegg
The Carmelite Priory in Oxford is four miles or so south-west of the city centre. It’s a moderately attractive three-storey house abutting the Youlbury Woods, designed and built by Robert Bridges in 1906. The original breakfast room – now one of two conference rooms – was, I believe, the room which Elizabeth Daryush, Bridges’s daughter, had in mind when she wrote ‘Still-Life’. The room’s windows face eastward onto the back lawn (‘the warm sun / lights up the polished breakfast table’); the ‘early walk in her garden-wood’ of the ‘young heiress’ can be picked out even now on Google’s satellite view. She would have been nineteen when the family moved, into what Bridges had named ‘Chilswell House’; either she had just matriculated at Somerville or was just about to, but she would have returned in the vacations (and I suppose whenever she fancied an eight-mile round walk, which must have been pleasanter before they built the A34).

This is a very small further piece of evidence for what Yvor Winters suggested in 1936, and Donald Davie expanded on in this journal in 1975: that ‘Still-Life’ marks an important development in Daryush’s work, that the subject-matter registers more palpably as personal, as though some obstacle had been lifted after Bridges’ death in 1930. (The poem must have been composed around 1934–35.) The undertone throughout Davie’s discussion is that the syllabic metre is so perfectly handled that the poem has become, not just an anthology piece, but a technical exemplum: that the attention paid to the technique ...


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